In fact, it wants to compete with the 7er so bad, it looks like it as well One man can sometimes make all the difference. If you go through the back of wheels magazine’s Buyer’s Guide, you can pause at almost every manufacturer listed there and think of a single man who somehow stands behind the brand.
David Brown, who lent his initials to all the cars coming out of Aston Martin’s factory in the Fifties and Sixties. Louis Chevrolet, the Swiss racer who died penniless and worked on the assembly line building cars bearing his name. Need we even mention Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford?
Then there’s Soichiro Honda, Karl Benz, Ferruccio Lamborghini, any one of the Maserati brothers… Alec Issigonis, who still stands behind the Mini name for revolutionising front-wheel drive and laying down the formula of the majority of cars on the road today. Mr K is a legend at Nissan, Ferdinand is still the boss at Porsche, and Herr Piech’s vision is the driving force behind Volkswagen Group’s world dominance.
At Korean carmaker Kia, that one man who makes all the difference is German-born Peter Schreyer. The automobile designer was appointed chief design officer of Kia six years ago, and is rightly credited for lifting the brand from being a punch line to punching its rivals out cold.
After raising Audi’s styling from a snore-fest into the 21st-century automotive image starting out with the original TT, Schreyer moved to Kia and began implementing his Tiger Nose front fascia treatment to give the brand a defining look. You can now recognise a Kia anywhere, whether you spot a Picanto or a Cadenza.
Then Schreyer was asked to pen the replacement for the ageing Opirus, once the brand’s flagship, but recently demoted to its last remnant of mediocrity. Granted, replacing the Opirus isn’t stylistically challenging — we reckon us boys at wheels could knock up a better looking car than the Opirus using nothing more than paper cut-outs. And Schreyer certainly delivered. But, while Kias of today are instantly recognisable, this new K9 halo model has more than a passing resemblance to something else. To be more specific, to the BMW 7 Series.
Certainly, the K9 is a striking and imposing saloon, which is already announced to go on sale in its home market. It’s the first modern rear-wheel drive Kia featuring two V6 engine choices and a new eight-speed transmission. The car is also scheduled to go on sale in many overseas markets starting as early as Q4 this year, which means the Middle East has a high chance of getting it on our shores since sister-company Hyundai already sells the massive Centennial here — a car that shares its underpinnings with the K9.
At 5,090mm long and 1,490mm tall, the K9 has slightly bigger dimensions than a BMW 7 Series, which means passenger room will be more than generous.
The interior, like the exterior, looks like a copy-paste job from BMW, with a near identical tunnel console treatment and a gear level seemingly lifted straight out of a 7er. May we remind you that the 7 Series also uses an eight-speed transmission sourced from ZF, and we suspect the German company is supplying Kia with this same gearbox (like it supplies Chrysler), complete with BMW bits unwittingly still attached…
Luxury and safety amenities in the K9 include fully adaptive LED headlamps, lane departure warning system, radar-based blind-spot detection, a 17-speaker Lexicon sound system, smart cruise control and an around-view monitor with four cameras.
At launch, the K9 will be available powered by a 286bhp 3.8-litre V6, or you can also have it with 329 horsepower. At least until the rumoured V8 version comes around.
Schreyer had this to say about his latest creation: “K9 is a clear signal of our intention and determination to compete head-to-head with the European luxury brands.” Competing is fine, Mr Schreyer, but imitation, on the other hand… You can do better than that.